British-based low-cost airline EasyJet announced Thursday it is cutting 4,500 jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the aviation sector deeply.

The air carrier, which has around 15,000 personnel, plans to shed about 30% of its staff, Johan Lundgren, the firm’s CEO, said in a press release.

“We realise that these are very difficult times and we are having to consider very difficult decisions which will impact our people, but we want to protect as many jobs as we can for the long-term,” he said.

Saying the firm is focused on the long term, he added: “Although we will restart flying on 15 June, we expect demand to build slowly, only returning to 2019 levels in about three years’ time.”

The firm will also reduce costs and non-critical expenditures, he underlined.

‘Hasty decision’

Lindsey Olliver of Unite, Britain’s biggest union, criticized EasyJet’s announcement as an “unnecessarily hasty decision.”

The company enjoys government support until at least October, she said, as well as a government-backed loan by committing to buying new aircraft.

Oliver Richardson, also from Unite, said: “The UK is an island nation and aviation is strategically crucial for the long-term economic success of the country.”

He added that the aviation sector requires urgent financial support to deal with COVID-19’s impact.

Since originating in China last December, the pandemic has claimed more than 356,000 lives in 188 countries and regions.

Over 5.7 million cases have been reported worldwide and more than 2.36 million people have recovered so far, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

Measures to stem the novel coronavirus hit several sectors, especially travel, aviation, tourism and manufacturing.

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